Sophie Roberts – Teenage Girls Will Save The World
Theatre, like many art forms, can be pretty hierarchical. Drama is viewed as more “important” than comedy, a big flash set more than a small empty stage, older perspectives more than younger. I don’t mean to discredit experience by any means, but I do call bullshit on the cultural value we ascribe certain stories over others.
As the artistic director of a theatre company, I spend a lot of time thinking about stories, why we tell them, who gets to do the telling and why people should listen. We recently opened a show called The Wolves about a women’s high school soccer team. I wanted to do this work because I feel strongly about young women being taken seriously and represented in our cultural canon and this was a work where we get to discover young women on their own terms and observe them at the centre of their own experience.
When we started the rehearsal process I had that old adage of ‘young people keep you young’ banging around in my head, when in truth I had never felt older. My father had just died and his battle with cancer had left me feeling old, jaded, tired and a million miles away from the young women I was embarking on this journey with and the story I was tasked with shaping. I was worried the stage I was at in life was going to infect the work and that I wouldn’t be able to connect with my actors or with this story.
Once I was in the room with my cast of nine young actors I realised I had nothing to worry about and the force of their energy shocked me out of myself and taught me a lot. Stories about young people standing on the precipice of adulthood needn’t be viewed through a lens of nostalgia or the smug and pessimistic experience of age. Every stage of life has us facing thresholds that ask us to step into unknown territory. Just because I’m 35 doesn’t mean I can’t connect with a 17-year-old character who knows moving forward means you are going to lose something, or a character learning to navigate a shift in a relationship dynamic, or a character meeting success or defeat.
Spending time with young women has been inspiring. They have a confidence in their own voice, assurance of their own opinions and clarity of expression that I remember having in my teens, losing in my twenties and am still trying to claw back in my thirties. The passion they bring to every topic of discussion be it abortion law or a particular choice of snack is thrilling to be around and a great reminder that there’s nothing stopping any of us bringing all of ourselves and all of our energy to every moment of our lives.
We need to listen more closely to teenage girls. This experience has convinced me they are going to save the world.
• Sophie Roberts is the Artistic Director of Silo Theatre, presenting The Wolves at Q Theatre Loft until July 13.